Tuesday, December 6, 2022
HomeOpinionTele-scopeFor TV news, Gyanvapi court hearing is already a ‘victory of Hindus’

For TV news, Gyanvapi court hearing is already a ‘victory of Hindus’

TV news focused on petitioners in Gyanvapi case and they responded with glee and bhajans. One said the verdict 'will be in favour of Hindus. Another said 'Modi Sahib zindabad’.

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People danced in the streets, sweets were distributed, while men and women chanted ‘Bam Bam Bole!’, ‘Har Har Mahadev!’

It was barely 9.30 am Monday but these ecstatic scenes filled the TV screen with joyous abandon. Were they saluting the complete disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops at Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs region of eastern Ladakh — a pullback worth celebrating, coming a year after the last one by both sides and just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to meet China’s President Xi Jinping at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit Thursday-Friday?


Did they welcome ‘Modi ji cheetah la rahe hain’ to India, on Friday, after more than 70 years, as part of an agreement between India and Namibia (Times Now Navbharat)?

Wrong again.

These celebrations were for ‘Kashi mein Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ (Times Now Navbharat) — four hours before the Varanasi district court agreed to hear a petition by five women seeking the right to prayer for Hindus at the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex.

Also read: What Varanasi court’s ruling means for Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi dispute & what happens next

Gyanvapi hearings can go on, verdict is out

That the ‘victory of the Hindu side’ — as TV news reporters and anchors referred to it all Monday — in ‘India’s biggest faith fight’ (India Today) was treated as a foregone conclusion by news channels and the public, says something about our ‘faith’ in the legal system.

‘Nyay for astha, Time to right historic wrongs’, said Times Now at 9 am, ‘Before victory pakka sabut…’ of a temple’s existence, declared Zee Hindustan. Channels focused on the petitioners and they responded with undisguised glee, sometimes singing bhajans, urged on by people crowding around them to enter the TV camera frames (ABP News). One petitioner said they were experiencing “double happiness”. “The verdict will be in favour of the Hindus… Modi Sahib zindabad!” said another, beaming.

A telling comment on the public’s ‘faith’ in the PM — and the judiciary: people in Varanasi, the PM’s Lok Sabha constituency, believe Modi will ensure their ‘victory’ in a legal battle.

News channels, saying ‘jeet’ was only a few hours away, also spoke to the lead lawyer representing the five petitioners, Vishnu Shankar Jain, on what would be the course of action following the ‘Hindu’ victory, sorry, the verdict. He was only too happy to oblige them with a detailed account of what he planned to do next.

The legal team for the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee that argued against the petition, was seen and heard, after the judgment.

The news channels welcomed the verdict with a happy ‘I-told-you-so’: ‘Shiva alone is Truth’ said India TV; ‘Rejoicing win for Astha’, wrote CNN News 18; ‘Path-breaking verdict, Watershed moment in Indian History’, announced Times Now; ‘Hndus Get Justice’.

Republic TV turned to one of the petitioners, a self-proclaimed spokesperson for the nation (Arnab Goswami, beware): “The entire country is happy!” she said and broke into a song. ‘Big win for Hindu side,’ added India Today; ‘A jolt for the Muslim side,’ said Aaj Tak.

It didn’t end there: news channels were already looking forward to more action on the Places of Worship Act 1991 and the masjid-mandir front, reminding viewers of an earlier ‘battle’. As Zee News put it, ‘Ayodha ki ladai, Kashi aaiy’. It then brought up similar petitions in a Mathura mosque-temple dispute.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Uma Bharati, suddenly, enjoyed her two-minute fame after a lengthy interval when TV news channels rushed to hear her verdict on the Gyanvapi verdict: Mathura next, was her message, with a plea for Muslims and Hindus to reach an amicable settlement.

Also read: Gyanvapi suit: Why Varanasi court ruled in favour of Hindu petitioners, found plea ‘maintainable’

West Bengal protest coverage also one-sided

Picking sides in any issue is another characteristic of our dear news channels.

In Tuesday’s coverage of BJP-TMC ‘mahayudh’ (Times Now) in Kolkata, it was clear where the channels’ sympathies lay: BJP protesters got ‘danda’ from ‘Didi’s cops’ — shocking scenes’ (Times Now). India Today called the streets a ‘war zone’ and asked if this was a ‘bid’ to stop ‘democratic stir? Republic TV witnessed ‘brute force’ by the police, and Zee News ‘BJP march pe paani’.

All channels dwelt on the police’s inequities: water cannons, tear gas, lathi charge. News 24 had on its screen a man being viciously attacked by a policeman; India TV showed another one in a red T-shirt being beaten up. “There’s zero tolerance for dissent,” observed Times Now.

Three cheers for news TV exposing police violence so graphically.

News channels then showed young men breaking barricades, throwing stones, streets littered with rubble, and a police vehicle in flames —  ‘shocking visual of torched vehicle’ (CNN News 18).

The Republic TV reporter told us that the ‘never before seen protests’ were against ‘scams and corruption’ involving TMC—he didn’t use the word ‘alleged’ or say these were ongoing investigations, as he ought to have. Then, he said that the police van was ‘put in flames…allegedly’ by BJP protesters. See the difference?

Other channels also telecast the burning vehicle but most didn’t say who set it ablaze; they showed the ‘chaos’ (India Today), the ‘patthar baazi’ (Aaj Tak). This reminded us of other similar protests — in Kanpur and Delhi by civilians following former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s remarks on the Prophet in June and Hanuman Jayanti procession in April. Also, recent Congress protests in Delhi have been denied permission and protesters manhandled by the police, too.

In all those instances, news channels weren’t as sympathetic towards the protesters as they are now, describing it as #LoktantraPeLathi (Times Now). How so?

P.S. On a much quieter note, Britain’s Queen Elisabeth II passed away last Thursday and since then BBC World has broadcast non-stop coverage of events ahead of her funeral next week — and the busy schedule of King Charles III.

This herculean effort must have been years in the planning. Is it the longest ever such broadcast?

Could well be.

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